Ki to Revitalization
Words mean things


Most people who are at all familiar with Nichiren Buddhsim have probably heard Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucketof the Maka Shikan {摩訶止観}; a meditation manual taught byT’ien T’ai.{天台} Chih-i {知礼} (538–597). This title has been variously translated as “Great Concentration and Insight,” “The Great Calm-Observation,” ” Calming and Contemplation,” “The Great Calm, Abiding Meditation,” and “Stopping and Seeing, ”
Also, those who are even casually acquainted with Zen have likely heard of Sikan Taza, another term for koan free za-zen which is explained as meaning “just sitting,” “Meditation Only,” “silent illumination,” “only minding sitting,” or “sitting quietly and doing nothing”.
So, what exactly is Shikan?
The word is composed of two Kanji
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In Japan, \Kanji, or the Chinese Script, have two main readings. The On reading is an Ancient Chinese reading with a Japanese accent, also called shindoku {used in a liturgical sense} or Sino-Japanese. The kun is a native or domestic Japanese reading.
: The On reading is Shi; Kun readings include Tomaru, Ashi, and Tomeru. The Korean reading is Ci, and Vietnamese; Chỉ. The mandarin is generally given as Chih, Cantonese; Zi, and Pinyin; Zhi. Literal English translations include stop, halt, desist, ceae, detain. In this context, Shi {止} is used to translate the Buddhist term Samatha. The Pali and Sanskrit is pretty much the same, though the Sanskrit is sometimes romanized as Shamatha.
Samatha is very similar to a common meditation-related term, Samadhi. In fact; I gather that they are pretty much forms of the same word. Samatha and Samadhi are often taken as synonyms; though the nuance of meaning of Samatha in this context, of Shikan, is slightly different from Samadhi. Sam means to integrate, to bring together, towards. Sama is also found in the word samahita, meaning complete or balanced. The syllable Tha means something like to hold or retain. Samatha is translated variously as calmness, quietude, stillness, tranquility, quiescence, serenity; or occasionally as concentration, or even absorption. We shall take a closer look at this in another segment.
観: The On reading for this is Kan, the Kun reading is mi-ru. The Mandarin is generally given as Kuan, or Kwan; while the Korean is Gwan, and Vietnamese is Quan. Literal English translations include see and obeerve.
Two different Indic words are translated as Kan {観}. One of these, Lok, as in Lokita, is a verb meaning to look, see, observe, behold; in the literal sense of the ocular faculty. The other is a noun; vipasyana in Sanskrit; or vipassana in Pali.
The etymology of Vipassana has three parts; the prefix Vi, a form of the verb pas, and na. Vi is the same as the original meaning of the Latin dis; though if we take it in the modern English sense of a negation, we get the opposite of the intended meaning {not-seeing?}. Vi means to separate, clarify, discriminate, clarify, discern, distinguish, differentiate, divide, make distinct, etcetera.
Vi can also mean to clarify is the sense of an intensive, indicating something deeper, more profound; to make what is clouded or opaque become transparent. Passa refers to vision or sight. The Buddha would invite people to Ehipassiko; come and see for yourself. Finally, Na means path. Vipassana is translated as insight, clear seeing, insight meditation, introspection, intuition, inward vision, contemplation, and “the intuitive light flashing forth”.
At any rate, from the context, it seem that Kan is intended as a translation of vipasyana, rather than the lok or lokita as in Kanzeon {see What is in a Name?}. Maka is simply a transliteration of the Sanskirt Maha, meaning Great, with all the same literal and metaphorical nuances & connotations as in English. In other contexts, it is translated with the kanji , usually read as Dai or Tai in Sino-Japanese; Kun-reading oo. So Maka Shikan means Maha Samatha Vipassana; the Great Quietude and Insight; a kind of broad based meditation practice. Perhaps there is more to it than “just sitting” infers at a glance?
The Buddhist concept of the Threefold Training {Sikkha}, which is found in both Nikaya Buddhism and Mahayana, includes three practices; Ethics, Meditation, and Wisdom. The Noble Eightfold Path, which is an expansion of the Three Fold Training, mentions three kindfs of meditation; Right Effort, Right Concentration, and Right Mindfulness. I am told that, in the Path of Purity, the great 5th Century Theravadin Scholar Buddhaghosa discusses two main kinds of meditation; Samatha and Vipassana.
I presently sort all of this out as follows:
Samatha is the Meditation {Samadhi-Dhyana} of the Threefold Training. It is inclusive of Right Effort {Samma Vayama} and Right Concentration {Samma Samadhi}.
Vipassana is the Wisdom of the Three-fold Training. In the Eightfold Path, this includes Right Viw {Samma Ditthi} and Right Intention {Samma Sankappa}. However, it is also inclusive of Right Mindfulness {Samma Sati/Smrti}.
That is my take right now. It puts 5 of the elements of the Eightfold path, and two of Three Trainings in a format that I can apply to my own primary practice of Mantra Chanting Meditation. In a way, the third training is even implicit, the place where I chant is the gathering of my Sangha of One, where, with palms together, I receive and observe the diamond chalice precept.